Sunday, 19 January 2014

Eric Meadus Part Two: Composition

Park with Houses
Oil on board, 40.5 x 45.7 cm, Southampton City Art Gallery
Okay. Continuing from where I left off, Eric Meadus and composition. What do I want to say about this… I think it’s easy, at first glance, to conclude that Meadus’s work is rather na├»ve (guilty as charged, Sir) but again, the more of his paintings and drawings I look at, and the more familiar I become with them, I start to see that the compositions are really quite sophisticated. He was prepared to take chances too. Several of his paintings have large expanses of uncluttered sky or foreground such as Park with Houses (above). The placing of the buildings in a strip along the top third of the painting (Rule of Thirds; did Meadus know about this or was it intuition?) leaving the other two thirds as a great swathe of green shows his confidence. Many artists would have felt the need to fill the foreground, or at least have some detail to break it up. The subtle change of greens is all that’s needed to suggest perspective and a change in topography; the eye runs down the slope to the darker plateau assisted by the tree trunk drawing the gaze towards the lower part of the picture plane.

Oil on board, 35.5 x 40.4 cm, Southampton City Art Gallery

In Townscape, the buildings take up just the bottom half of the picture with an unrelenting greyish sky spreading across the other. The houses are cropped and stretched and crowded together in a gentle upward slope suggesting squeezed urbanisation below an oppressive winter sky. 

Meadus plays with perspective; flattens out and warps the buildings. Walls almost seem to slide in front of each other to create architectural conundrums which work so well. Railway Station, possibly Woolston, Southampton is a good example. The end of the building, which should recede to the right looks like it has been peeled off the end of the building and pull out to lie parallel with the side. Somehow Meadus gets this to work – it doesn’t jar the eye at all.

Railway Station, possibly Woolston, Southampton
1964, oil on canvas, 49 x 53 cm, Southampton City Art Gallery

There’s loads more I could say about this but this post feels like it’s turning into a critical essay so I shall stop here for today. I still want to say something about his drawings and about his creative drive so I will be back on this subject soon. In the meantime, go and see the exhibitions for yourself and see if you agree with me.

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